The Bible, as is often said, is the world’s least-read bestseller. That is particularly true of the Old Testament. People are often put off by the sheer bulk of the material and its frequently undistinguished quality. John Dancy has selected large samples from most of the canonical and apocryphal books, amounting to just under a third of the total, chosen for artistic merit and intrinsic interest rather than for representative status or theological value. Literature of this stature, he says, should not be restricted to academics and believers. To make it more approachable, the text is presented with commentary on the same page, in smaller type so that attention is never diverted from the original. The commentary mostly concentrates on literary matters but provides technical explanations where necessary. In addition a sensitive and sound introduction also puts the Hebrew writings in the historical context of the ancient Near East. Extracts are used from a variety of translations, preferring the most faithful in language, tone and style for each section. Accuracy is a prime concern, but so is poetry. Above all, the selections bring out the inherent dramatic qualities of the verse dialogues and narrative prose. Nothing quite like this has yet been made available. “The Divine Drama” will be a welcome addition to the library of any thoughtful reader who cares for good stories.
‘Anyone to whom the Old Testament is a strange land, is in for a glorious, exciting and life-enhancing experience.’ — Church Times, December 21/28, 2001
‘Each of the passages is accompanied by an elegant commentary which teases out the hidden meanings. A magnificent achievement.’ — Mail on Sunday, January 20, 2002
‘Excellent. The presentation is interesting and effective, notes and explanation are well thought out, clear and concise.’ —New Directions, September, 2001
‘Should prove of great assistance to teachers and to anyone interested in fully understanding the Old Testament.’ –The Contemporary Review, February 2002
‘The comments which accompany the individual extracts are admirably clear and pack a good deal of information and insight into a comparatively brief compass…The non-specialist reader will be greatly enlightened by the introductory sections on the Hebrew language, Hebrew storytelling and Hebrew poetry. Two appendices set the Old Testament in its earliest literary contexts, the Ancient Near East and Greek Literature, then latter being particularly interesting and reflecting the author’s training as a classicist.’ –J. R. Porter, in The Times Literary Supplement, January 4, 2002